. . . as National Assembly breaks for Christmas
THE main opposition parties in parliament have accused the government and National Assembly authorities of disregarding their motions and maladministration.
The Democratic Congress (DC) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) say their motions were dismissed on the basis of not being urgent ahead of the adjournment of the august house sine die (for an indefinite period) last Friday.
However, the government has scoffed at the claims, saying the parties were “cry-babies”, while National Assembly Deputy Speaker Teboho Lehloenya stated that all legislators were privy to procedures they needed to follow if they felt aggrieved.
DC chairperson and legislator for Qalabane, Motlalentoa Letsosa, told the Lesotho Times that the opposition had filed a number of motions “for the betterment of Basotho’s safety and lives”.
One such motion was for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to withdraw remarks to the effect that police should assault crime suspects when no one was looking.
Dr Thabane’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, has since asserted that the premier’s remarks had been misconstrued. Mr Thakalekoala said Dr Thabane had urged the police to be more vigorous in their law-enforcement duties to restore law and order in Lesotho.
Mr Letsosa said their motion had not seen the light of day even though Dr Thabane had not retracted the remarks.
“They (motions) were all dismissed on the basis that they lacked urgency, yet the prime minister has failed to retract his utterances on the violation of human rights by advocating for police brutality,” he said.
“We have always held that anyone who is suspected of any crime should be taken to task with their dignity intact and be given the benefit of the doubt until the courts of law have proven them guilty. “It is not for the prime minister to say that suspects should be tortured. It is against the law.”
The opposition, Mr Letsosa said, also wanted to question Dr Thabane on a number of issues of public interest before the adjournment of parliament. He said National Assembly Speaker Sephiri Motanyane and Mr Lehloenya decided to overlook parliamentary Standing order No. 29 which provides for the tabling of urgent motions.
“We made a submission on Tuesday (last week) stating that we have some questions for the PM that he needs to address before the House. “But to our surprise, the powers that be in Parliament decided to send the House on a Christmas break without dealing with all other urgent business.”
Mr Letsosa also accused the government of bungling the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism Bill by passing it in the lower house without giving the Senate a chance to deliberate on it.
“The fact that that this bill will not go through all the required procedures as it should is a sign that it is being bungled and the Senate is being deprived of all its powers,” he said.
“The government has decided to abduct the Senate. They have handcuffed the Senate and put it in blinkers so that they should not question anything now that Parliament has closed.”
The opposition, he said, had already noticed that the bill had some loopholes which could be manipulated should it be made into law.
“There is a provision that says that the attorney-general (AG) is bestowed with powers to investigate the offshore assets of the person in question.
“The same section further states that ‘besides the AG, someone may do such investigations’. But it does not provide in express terms who that particular person is, and we foresee a danger in this because it shall be used to manipulate the law in future to suit other people.”
Mr Letsosa said the government had hurried the passing of the bill because they had been given a January 2018 deadline by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group.
LCD chairperson Motlalepula Sello also accused the government of being “oppressive and biased”, saying ruling coalition legislators were not reprimanded for brawling with their opposition colleagues last month.
The chaotic day, which saw some government and opposition legislators shoving and choking each other, prompted the police to enter the august house to keep the peace.
“We are still awaiting to see the speaker taking some disciplinary measures against some government MPs who moved from their seats last month and started a fight in the House, with one of our own.
“All the MPs who are being disciplined are from the opposition side. The opposition legislators are the only ones labelled as lawbreakers,” said Mr Sello.
Communications Minister, Joang Molapo, rubbished the opposition parties’ claims saying they were being “cry-babies”.
“We are not going to entertain these cry-babies. They know how parliament is run and as long as they are not operating according to the regulations, they will not stop crying,” curtly said Chief Molapo.
For his part, Mr Lehloenya explained that legislators had means of recourse if they felt aggrieved.
“We always play by the book. Members of the opposition know the provisions of the standing orders, but for some reason they have never been able to satisfy all the requirements needed for them to stand,” he said.
“The speaker and myself are not running the House as we wish, but in line with the guidelines. We make sure that decisions are made by the House.”